Fritz Reichsgraf Wolff-Metternich zur Gracht

Friedrich Paul Hubert Maria Walpurg Reichsgraf Wolff-Metternich zur Gracht, Freiherr auf Vinsebeck, his rarely used full name, was born on the 14th of October 1842 (other sources say 12th October) at his father's castle at Vinsebeck (Westphalia). The water-castle of Vinsebeck was built in 1720 by the original owner Anton Johann Viktor von der Lippe who died without a son and so his daughter Antonette Viktoria Sophia, who had married Johann Ignatius Graf Wolff-Metternich zur Gracht in 1765, inherited the castle. So it came about that the water castle including large tracts of countryside and woods became the estate of the old Hessian catholic noble family which held the title of Reichsgraf (which means Count of the German Reich) since 1731. When in 1859 the Austrian troops left Ancona, which they captured in 1848/49 for the Pope, an Austrian Legion was raised to fight on the papal side against the troops of Garibaldi. The 18 years old and ambitious count, who had graduated from the knight's academy at Bedburg, joined this volunteer corps as an officer's candidate in 1860 to fight for the Pope. After the defeat at Castelfidardo on the 18th of September 1860 the papal General Lamoriciére concentrated the rest of his troops at the fortress of Ancona but had to surrender after two days of siege on the 29th of September 1860. During this last siege Fritz Graf Wolff-Metternich received serious wounds, later he was honored for his heroic performance during this action with the award of the knight's cross of the papal Order of Pius (7th August 1861) and the papal commemorative medal for Ancona.

After recovering his health he joined Austrian military service as a cadet in ulan regiment number 10 on the 18th of May 1861. In July 1861 he became a member of the knightly Johanniter Order of Malta as an Ehren- und Devotionsritter. On the 26th of September 1861 he was transferred to ulan regiment number 8 with the additional promotion to Unterlieutenant 2nd class. With this regiment, where Erzherzog Ferdinand Max the later Kaiser Maximilian of Mexico was the honorary colonel (Oberstinhaber), Graf Wolff-Metternich received his promotion to Unterlieutenant 1st class on the 1st of June 1863. On the 23rd of October 1864 Fritz Graf Wolff-Metternich entered Mexican military service with the ulan regiment as an Oberleutnant with seniority from the 2nd of August 1864. In March 1865 he took over the command of the 1st platoon of the 3rd ulan-eskadron under Rittmeister Graf Kurtzrock with whom he transfered from Puebla to Tulancingo on the 12th of April 1865. When the hostilities at the Sierra del Norte started again in July 1865 his platoon was transfered to Zacatlan where he was attached to the infanteristic troops of Major Schönowsky with whom the operationes agianst Tetela del Oro started on the 16th of July 1865. This was the reason why he and his platoon was not with Graf Kurtzrock during his fatal battle at the church of Ahuacatlan on the 17th of July 1865 which exhaust the whole eskadron. Oberleutnant Wolf-Metternich's platoon build the advance guard of the relife forces and so he was the commander of those troops who were able to liberate the few seriousely wounded prisoners at Ahuacatlan on the 21st and 22nd of July 1865. Nothing further is reported about his duties in Mexico and he was unable to earn any decorations there with the exception of the French war medal for Mexico in 1867. Finally he returned to Austria and reentered ulan regiment number 8 as a Leutnant on the 1st of August 1867. With  this regiment he received his promotion to Oberleutnant on the 1st of November 1868 but a worsening illness with his eyes finally  forced him to take a recuperative leave of absence for two full years. On the 24th of December 1870 he was transferred to the body of reserve of his regiment.

During nearly 3 decades Fritz Reichsgraf Wolff-Metternich zur Gracht was a well known gentleman rider, familiar at all the major race courses in continental Europe and winning over the years all the major races in Germany and Austria-Hungary. But horse racing and managing the entailed estate at Vinsebeck was a little too boring for a 30 years old ambitious cavalry officer and so he again joined a foreign legion to fight in the 2nd Carlist war in Spain. He took part from the first siege of the fortress of Estella in June 1874 until the surrender at the end of February 1876.

During the Prussian-Austrian war in 1866 Herzog Adolf von Nassau joined the Austrian side and after the occupation of his country by the kingdom of Prussia he took permanent residence in Austria and Kaiser Franz Joseph granted him an officer for his personal use. On the 24th of October 1886 Oberleutnant der Reserve Graf Wolff-Metternich was appointed adjutant at this exile court. In 1887 he claimed for the honor of k.u.k. Kämmerer (chamberlain) which - of course - he received immediately, as he required this necessary court-qualification and also received his promotion to Rittmeister 2.Klasse der Reserve on the 1st of November 1887. Because of the growing illness of King Wilhelm III of the Netherlands, Adolf Herzog von Nassau became temporary ruler of Luxemburg and finally, with the title of Großherzog von Luxemburg, the new sovereign of this country on the 23rd of November 1890. The new Grand duke took Fritz Graf Wolff-Metternich with him to Luxemburg and his post grow over night to a political and diplomatic dimension. Over the following years he received a huge number of foreign decorations like the grand cross of the Merit order of Adolph von Nassau with swords, the grand cross of the Swedish Order of the North Star, the commander's cross with star of the House order of Albrecht the Bear of Anhalt, the commander's cross 1st class of the Danebrog-Order from Denmark, the commander's cross with star of the Order of the Star of Romania, the commander's cross 2nd class of the Swedish Wasa-Order, the knight's cross 1st class of the Bavarian Order of St.Michael and the Military Merit Cross 2nd class of the principality of Waldeck. On the 30th of May 1896 his performance at the Luxemburgian household was honored with the award of the commander's cross with star of the Order of Franz Joseph shortly followed by his promotion to Major der Reserve on the 9th of June 1896 - with the internal annotation at his file "not qualified for any further promotions"!

When the Großherzog von Luxemburg retired on health grounds from his throne in April 1902 and succeeded by his son Wilhelm, Fritz Graf Wolff-Metternich, meanwhile at the age of 60, returned to his estates at Vinsebeck. In the country belonging to the Vinsebeck estates some artesian wells are located and in 1904 Graf Wolff-Metternich decided, after a very positive analysis by the well known chemist Prof. Dr. Wackenrode, to curb the fountain and sell bottled mineral water. The high quality of the water lead soon to international awards (e.g. 1907 at Paris) at the "Graf Metternich-Brunnen" and his trademarks "Citerna" and "Metterna" became popular. On the 13th of December 1905 Graf Wolff-Metternich received the commendation of the Kaiser which allowed him to wear the bronze Military Merit Medal on the red (peacetime) ribbon. After his first business success he curbed three further wells, known as the Varus, the Delta and the Vinsebecker fountains, and got the franchise contract for a new soft drink named "Sinalco" (from the Latin phrase sine alcohole) in 1907 by its developers. This mineral water and soft drink company (sold to public in the 1930s) is still working today and Sinalco is probably the oldest German soft drink trademark still in business in our days. When Fritz Reichsgraf Wolff-Metternich zur Gracht died on the 6th of March 1927 without any children the whole estate was passed to his nephew Wolfgang Reichsgraf Wolff-Metternich.

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